Emily Thornberry Labour MP for Islington South and Finsbury
Thank you for contacting me about your support for the campaign to ban conversion therapy.
As you know, a Westminster Hall debate was held on LGBT Conversion Therapy on 8 March, to respond to an e-petition which attracted over 250,000 signatures. The petition called on the government to make conversion therapy illegal in the UK and to protect LGBT individuals from conversion therapies.
I want to start by saying that conversion therapy is an abhorrent practise and that no individual should have to go through this harmful practise because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. The figures identified by the National LGBT Survey in relation to conversion therapy are very concerning.
Almost three years ago, the government promised to outlaw conversion therapy. Conversion therapy has been condemned by all medical bodies, as well as the Church of England. There is also widespread support for a ban across most of the UK’s political parties, including the Conservative Party.
The fact that we had to hold a debate on this issue in 2021 is obscene. Conversion therapy should already be illegal.
During the Westminster Hall debate on conversion therapy, Labour’s Shadow Minister for Women and Equalities, Charlotte Nichols, said the following:
“So-called LGBT conversion therapies are disgusting, exploitative, damaging and a relic of bigotry. In 2021, we recognise better than ever what illness and disease look like. Being gay, lesbian, bisexual or trans is not a sickness; it is a fundamental part of an individual’s very identity. So-called LGBT conversion therapies need to be banned. […]
“Pedlars of these supposed treatments not only perpetuate a fraud on the public but cause genuine harm, psychological distress and lasting emotional damage. The 2018 national faith and sexuality survey found that 58.8% of people who had undergone such therapies had suffered mental health issues. Significant numbers cited anxiety, self-harm and eating disorders. More than two thirds had suicidal thoughts, and more than a third had actually attempted suicide. […]
“There are LGBT+ people experiencing harms from these practices every day and the longer we wait for action, the longer they are denied legal redress.”
Charlotte is absolutely right.
Recently, Boris Johnson said that conversion therapy “has no place in a civilised society”, which is true. But his Equalities Minister Kemi Badenoch responded to the Westminster Hall debate by stating that the government believes that people should still be able to seek “spiritual counselling as they explore their sexual orientation”, and that the government want to be very careful about what they do and do not define as conversion therapy.
The Equalities Minister did not mention trans people, who are twice as likely to have experience with the practise, once. And nor did she explicitly say that what the government is pursuing is a “ban”.
That is why I was shocked – and delighted – when Liz Truss announced at the end of last week that the government will “shortly be bringing forward plans to ban conversion therapy”. Labour will continue to follow all developments on this matter closely.
I must say that this announcement only came after three key members of the government’s LGBT+ Advisory Panel resigned from their roles in response to the way this government is treating LGBT people. One of these ex-advisors, Jayne Ozanne, said that the government has created a “hostile environment” for LGBT people in the UK, and that the government’s Ministers for Equality are better known by members of the LGBT community as the “Ministers for Inequality”.
LGBT+ deserve to live with dignity and respect. Nobody should be made to feel ashamed of themselves because of who they are or who they love, and that is why we need to ban conversion therapy as soon as possible.
I am a proud ally of LGBT+ people. Please be assured that I can be relied on to give support whenever it is needed.
Thank you again for contacting me about this important issue. If you have any further points you would like to raise with me on this matter or any other, please do not hesitate to get back in touch.
The Rt Hon. Emily Thornberry MP
Islington South and Finsbury
Shadow Secretary of State for International Trade